Summer Reading List 2009


I’m taking a page from Ken Newquist‘s book (or rather, his blog and podcast) to present my Summer Reading List. As we’re well into the season, the list includes books I’ve read since late June, those I am currently reading, and those I intend to read before summer comes to a close. The last of these three lists is—to put it lightly—mutable, as which book I pick up next is subject more to whim than design.

Pages Past

  • Shambling Towards Hiroshima by James Morrow. During World War II, a B-movie actor is hired to play the part of a giant, fire-breathing lizard in order to convince the Japanese to surrender or have a trio of Godzilla-like creatures unleashed on their cities.
  • The Touch by F. Paul Wilson. The third installment of The Adversary Cycle tells the tale of a doctor who suddenly gains the ability to heal with a touch. It wouldn’t be a medical thriller if there weren’t a terrible price to pay. This isn’t my preferred genre, but I enjoyed The Keep and The Tomb, so I thought I’d continue the cycle; The Touch isn’t anywhere near as creepy as its predecessors, but it’s a pretty entertaining tale.
  • Glasshouse by Charles Stross. In a far-flung future where technology makes changing your gender, race, and even species as commonplace as changing your shirt, and humanity has been through a great Censorship War, Robin wakes with no memory of his past and a killer on his tail. How much of what makes you you is determined by your physical being, your memories, and your relationships with other people? This was really a fascinating read.
  • His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi NovikHis Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire · Book 1) by Naomi Novik. During the Napoleonic Wars, the H.M.S. Reliant, a British naval vessel, captures a French ship and siezes a most unusual cargo: a dragon’s egg. When the dragon hatches and bonds to Will Laurence, the Reliant’s captain must leave the Navy behind for His Majesty’s Air Corps. I love Novik’s writing style and the relationship that forms between the dragon, Temeraire, and Laurence is beautifully executed. This is definitely my favorite book of the summer so far.
  • Anathem (Audio) by Neal Stephenson. The audio version of this lengthy tome consists of twenty-eight compact discs and took me eleven weeks to complete. As Chris Miller pointed out to me, Neal Stephenson doesn’t so much write novels as essays stitched together with bits of story. Much time is spent explaining how the world in which Anathem takes place is different from our own, complete with excerpts from The Dictionary (4th Edition, A.R. 3000) that mark the beginning of each of the eleventy-three thousillion chapters. Anathem follows Fraa Erasmas of the concent of Saunt Edhar as he ventures out into the sæcular world during (and after) Apert. And to explain every term in that sentence would require more space than I’m willing to devote to a single bullet point right now.

Pages Present

  • Lamb by Christopher MooreLamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore. The Bible doesn’t go into a whole lot of detail where the first thirty years of Christ’s life are concerned, and now Levi (who is called Biff) has been resurrected by the angel Raziel to fill in the gaps. Chris Miller and I will be discussing this somewhat-apocryphal gospel on a future episode of The Secret Lair.
  • The Strain (Audio) by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. Vampires!
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (Audio) by Susanna Clarke. Magicians!
  • The Way of Shadows (Book 1 of The Night Angel Trilogy) by Brent Weeks. Assassins! (Sorry: wetboys.)

Pages Future

Finally, here is a fourth list, which may be considered a bonus by some and entirely excessive by others. I have been using GoodReads to track my ever-expanding library and hummingbirdlike reading habits, but there are a number of similar sites and as I become aware of one I can’t help but set up an account and import at least a portion of my books, just to see how it compares to the others. Here is a list of said sites (I don’t claim it is comprehensive, and if you know of another please leave a comment with a link to it.) that I’ve been using recently, in the order I joined:

  1. GoodReads. Very well put together. The interface is generally very intuitive, though management of group “shelves” could be enhanced. GoodReads is, unfortunately, ad-supported.
  2. Readernaut. My favorite of the bunch so far. Pages aren’t as “busy” as those on GoodReads or LibraryThing and there’s a lot of flexibility around tweaking books (I especially like that I can upload my own cover images). Pages tend to render poorly on some installations of Internet Explorer. Readernaut is not currently ad-supported.
  3. Shelfari. My least favorite by quite a large margin. I’m not a fan of the default “shelf” layout and though the add/edit book interface is nice and streamlined, it is also rather limited. Shelfari is ad-supported.
  4. LibraryThing. I haven’t played with this one very much, but I do like that there is space for BookCrossing IDs (though it’s been months since I last logged in to BookCrossing) and they seem to pack in a lot of information about individual titles. LibraryThing is not ad-supported, but offers both free and subscription-based models, so I can only assume that the size of my library (as a free user) has a limit.

8 responses to “Summer Reading List 2009”

  1. Greg Avatar

    Wow. You’ve apparently made more time for yourself for reading than I. The past 6 months for me has been slow going – feel like I’ll never get through my current book, though it’s not a bad one.

    The Time Travelers Wife is an absolutely brilliant book. Probably in my top 10 books ever, along with World War Z and Little Brother.

    1. Kris Avatar

      @Greg — The audiobooks help a lot, but I’ve made a definite effort to read more this year. I’m also going back through my little library and finishing books that have been sitting on the shelf for a year or more. I’m not sure when it was that I bought Naomi Novik’s His Majesty’s Dragon; the receipt was still tucked in the front cover but all the text on the receipt had faded, so it was impossible to make out the date.

      I haven’t read the print edition of World War Z, but the full-cast audio edition was fantastic. As for Cory Doctorow, I own Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, but I never finished it.

  2. The Bearded Goose Avatar

    I’ve never been able to plan out a reading list of any kind. The few times I’ve tried, I notice that I get to a point, usually only one or two books in, where I realize I don’t feel like reading any of the rest of the books on the list.

    Thus, what usually happens now is I finish a book, I look around my overflowing bookshelves, and see which of them grabs my interest next.

    This usually takes about 30 minutes. Yeah, seriously. Do I feel like a fantasy? Maybe urban fantasy? Damn, I wish the next Dresden was out. Or Codex Alera… Oh, what’s this, never mind, read that one already. Ooooh, a Zelazny I haven’t ready. Damn, I liked Amber. Should I read that again. Oh! Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars were awesome… Hm. Charles Stross. Keep meaning to read these. Ah! Been sitting on these E. R. Burroughs for awhile. Here we go! Doctor Who! But… which one… I like Rose, but Martha was fun, too.

    Okay, Conan, here I come. Nah, maybe I’ll hit the library/book store and see what’s new. I really wish the next Dresdan was out. *sigh*

    I’m pathetic, ain’t I?

    1. Kris Avatar

      @The Bearded Goose — Let me get this out of the way so we can get back to the topic at hand: Zahn’s Star Wars books were awesome only in the respect that they opened the door for more new fiction in Lucas’ universe. I only wish that could have been managed without introducing Thrawn, cortosis and—worst of all—ysalamiri.

      Moving on…

      This reading list was easy to assemble because it’s already mid-summer and I finished a bunch of stuff in the past month. The first chunk (what I’ve read) and the second chunk (what I’m reading) present an illusion of organization and planning, lending a certain credibility to the weakest part of the list: those I’ve identified as what I’ll read next. In reality, I’ll probably finish Lamb this week, glance over at my bookshelf and see Patricia Anthony’s Brother Termite sitting there and start reading that instead of anything on the third list.

  3. Rachel Avatar

    My account on LibraryThing expired so I can’t add more books (for now, not sure if I want to renew) – but I did try to friend you.

    1. Kris Avatar

      @Rachel — I’m not sure whether I’ll “go pro” on LibraryThing or not, especially given that there are definitely alternatives that I like quite a lot. I totally accepted your friend request, though. Totally.

  4. Rachel Avatar

    PS. Oh neat, Naomi Novik is on LibraryThing:

  5. P.G. Holyfield Avatar

    I want to hear what you think about The Strain and The Time-Traveler’s Wife. One I absolutely LOVED and the other, well, I didn’t.

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